By Luc Cohen
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Sam Bankman-Fried has appealed the decision to jail him ahead of his October 3 trial over the collapse of his FTX cryptocurrency exchange, arguing he will be punished for violating his right to exercised freedom of expression under the First Amendment.
US District Judge Lewis Kaplan on August 11 revoked bail for the 31-year-old former billionaire after suspecting he tampered with witnesses.
This comes after he shared personal writings by his former colleague and love partner Caroline Ellison with a New York Times reporter before FTX collapsed in November 2022.
Ellison is one of three former members of Bankman-Fried’s inner circle who are expected to testify against him after pleading guilty to fraud.
In a motion to release Bankman-Fried from prison, filed with the US Circuit Court of Circuit 2 late Friday night, his attorneys wrote that their client shared Ellison’s writings with the reporter to defend his reputation, and not, to intimidate them.
“It is unclear how a cooperating witness who has promised to testify against a defendant could be seriously threatened by anything other than the publication of his own testimony in a reputable newspaper,” Bankman-Fried’s attorneys wrote.
Prosecutors have accused Bankman-Fried of stealing billions of dollars in client funds to absorb losses at Alameda Research, a cryptocurrency-focused hedge fund he also owned and where Ellison was CEO.
He has pleaded not guilty.
His attorneys said his incarceration at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, whose conditions critics have long decried, interfered with his constitutional right to prepare for trial.
At an Aug. 22 court hearing, Bankman-Fried’s attorneys protested the prison’s failure to give him Adderall for his attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or to serve him vegan food, resulting in his subsistence on bread, water and peanut butter .
His attorneys also said Bankman-Fried prison did not allocate sufficient computer time to review evidence and prepare his defense.
The story goes on
In her writing, Ellison described feeling “dissatisfied and overwhelmed” with her job and “hurt/rejected” by Bankman-Fried’s split.
Prosecutors said Bankman-Fried leaked Ellison’s writings to harass her and to dissuade others from testifying if they thought he was making them look bad in the press.
(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Nick Zieminski)